Strike organizers denounce payment as a ‘band-aid’ while more unions join
© Getty Images / Burak Akbulut
Striking truckers have rejected Madrid’s offer of a hefty subsidy to offset rising diesel prices, which the government had hoped would shut down a work stoppage that has snarled traffic across the country.
Transport Minister Raquel Sanchez pledged to introduce a $551.35 million (€500 million) subsidy in direct aid to the industry on Tuesday after meeting with the National Road Transport Committee.
However, while Sanchez pointed out the measure was similar to moves taken by France, Portugal, and Italy to shore up their own industries in the face of skyrocketing fuel prices, there will be no reduction in the value-added tax (VAT) on fuel, and strike organizers the Platform for the Defense of Transport did not attend the meeting, calling the government’s announcement “insufficient.”
Three Spanish truckers’ unions opted to join the Platform’s strike on Tuesday, potentially aggravating a food shortage across the country as trucks are already having difficulty making deliveries on time.
The unions denounced the plan, scheduled to be approved March 29, in a joint statement, pointing out that it “doesn’t specify what it will comprise, how it will work, and, more importantly, how much aid each trucker would get.”
Drivers loosely allied under the banner of the Platform stopped work last Monday, faced with a surge in diesel prices, demanding the government lower taxes and roll back regulations. “Until we negotiate the real problems faced by small truck drivers, there will be no suspension [of the strike],” Platform president Manuel Hernandez told Reuters on Monday, saying drivers must be protected from taking on losses or else they faced “total bankruptcy”.
Finance Minister Nadia Calvino, however, told reporters that the truckers should not reject the offer and that those who would “are clearly showing they do not defend the interests of this sector.”
The government’s plan was offered up following a European Commission meeting on a draft proposal for temporary crisis aid aimed at propping up the continent’s ailing economy as inflation and fuel prices soar, in part due to the sanctions imposed on Russia in the wake of its ongoing military offensive in Ukraine.
While the EU receives more than 40% of its natural gas supply from Russia, the alliance is reportedly considering an embargo on oil from the country as part of the latest round of sanctions aimed at economically crippling the country. More than half of Russia’s oil exports are sent to Europe. However, several European countries, including Germany and Bulgaria, have suggested a total ban on Russian fuel is a bridge too far.
Madrid has dismissed the truckers, branding them as unorganized and attempting to link them to far-right extremists. Spain has mobilized a reported 23,000 police in an effort to crush the strike.